Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Stop the train

The Good news:
It was a normal day in Sharon Springs , KS. When a Union Pacific crew boarded a loaded coal train for the long trek to Salina ..

The Bad news:
Just a few miles into the trip a wheel bearing became overheated and melted, letting a metal support drop down and grind on the rail, creating white hot molten metal droppings spewing down to the rail.

The Good news:
A very alert crew noticed smoke about halfway back in the train and immediately stopped the train in compliance with the rules.

The Bad news:
The train stopped with the hot wheel over a wooden bridge with creosote ties and trusses

But, don't let common sense get in the way of a good disaster!

Cheers to Andy for this

Monday, August 24, 2009


The Great Fire of London 1666 started famously in Pudding Lane. Over 100,000 Londoners lost their homes to it, yet only 6 people died!

A few years after, a budding architect called Christopher Wren ;) built Monument to the fire.

The 311 steps to the top nearly killed me! But the views from up there were absolutely worth it.

"The Monument stands at the junction of Monument Street and Fish Street Hill in the City of London. It was built between 1671 and 1677 to commemorate the Great Fire of London and to celebrate the rebuilding of the City.

The fire began in a baker's house in Pudding Lane on Sunday 2nd September 1666 and finally extinguished on Wednesday 5th September, after destroying the greater part of the City. Although there was little loss of life, the fire brought all activity to a halt, having consumed or severely damaged thousands of houses, hundreds of streets, the City's gates, public buildings, churches and St. Paul's Cathedral. The only buildings to survive in part were those built of stone, like St. Paul's and the Guildhall.

As part of the rebuilding, it was decided to erect a permanent memorial of the Great Fire near the place where it began. Sir Christopher Wren, Surveyor General to King Charles II and the architect of St. Paul's Cathedral, and hisfriend and colleague, Dr Robert Hooke, provided a design for a colossal Doric column in the antique tradition. They drew up plans for a column containing a cantilevered stone staircase of 311 steps leading to a viewing platform. This was surmounted by a drum and a copper urn from which flames emerged, symbolising the Great Fire. The Monument, as it came to be called, is 61 metres high (202 feet) - the exact distance between it and the site in Pudding Lane where the fire began.

The column was completed in 1677, and in accordance with Wren's original intention, was at first used as a place for certain experiments of the Royal Society, but vibrations caused by ceaseless traffic proved too great for the success of these experiments and they were discontinued; thereafter the Monument became a place of historic interest, unique of its kind, providing visitors with an opportunity to look across London in all directions from a height of about 160 feet, being the level of the public gallery."

The Golden Boy

We filmed a short film this weekend called the Golden Boy. It came about after I met the cameraman on the set of Rubins. It was designed as an opportunity to basically show off Dannys camera skills. He has his own Red (c) camera, a state of art High Def digital camera.

Danny, along with his friend Craig who is the director of TGB are also the cameraman and producer of Jack Osbornes adrenalin show where they go around the world with him doing crazy stuff (God, can I get that job? lol)

By cashing in loads of favours they got loads of great equipment like a camera arm (jib) and tracking. After that it was a case of where can we film to take full advantage of this top equipment. They got an award winning writer to pen a short film that is set in the heart of the City of London, and would feature some of the great landmarks..

TGB is a tale of loss and friendship, and follows 2 men as they follow the path of the Great Fire of London, just walking and talking. We start at Monument, which is by Pudding Lane (where the fire started), and end at The Golden Boy of Pye on Giltspur Street, opposite St Barts Hospital (where the fire ended). We filmed in the centre of the City of London, which is actually almost deserted on a night. This is the major banking centre of London, so when work ends it becomes almost deserted. Lovely place to play in :)

They cast a couple of great actors in it. Michael Jibson who was in The Bank Job with Jason Statham, and Philip Jackson, an absolute British TV legend, who has been in everything from Robin of Sherwood to Poirot (as Inspector Japp). Both were really nice guys, and top actors as well. The script is actually a gem, both poingnant and funny. I cant wait to see the final product.

My job was get get permission to film at these major landmarks like Monument and Guildhall Yard, which were actually far more dificult than I thought due to all sorts of regulations involving these places. But that was also a great learning curve for me too.

We may just have a gem on our hands. Cant wait!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

We are all made of stars

Discovery by Stardust probe in Wild 2 comet suggests life on Earth began in space.


A fundamental building block of biology has been discovered in wisps of stardust from the tail of a comet, offering fresh evidence that life on Earth could have begun from matter that arrived on our planet from space.

New analysis of tiny particles captured by the Stardust comet-chasing probe has revealed for the first time the presence of traces of an amino acid called glycine, a basic component of proteins without which life as we know it could not exist.

The discovery, by Nasa scientists, supports a theory that the raw material from which life began first formed in space, and was carried to Earth by comets that crashed into the planet. It also means that other planets are likely to have been seeded with amino acids from comets in a similar fashion, suggesting that extraterrestrial life may well have evolved elsewhere in the Universe and could even be common.

“Glycine is an amino acid used by living organisms to make proteins, and this is the first time an amino acid has been found in a comet,” said Jamie Elsila, of Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland, who led the research. “Our discovery supports the theory that some of life’s ingredients formed in space and were delivered to Earth long ago by meteorite and comet impacts.”

Carl Pilcher, director of the Nasa Astrobiology Institute, said: “The discovery of glycine in a comet supports the idea that the fundamental building blocks of life are prevalent in space, and strengthens the argument that life in the Universe may be common rather than rare.”

The discovery is the latest to come from Nasa’s unmanned Stardust mission, which flew through the cloud of dust and debris trailing the Wild 2 comet on January 2, 2004.

Millions of tiny particles from the comet’s tail were captured by a grid filled with aerogel, a super-light, sponge-like material sometimes nicknamed “frozen smoke” because 99 per cent of its volume is empty space.

A capsule containing the collection grid detached from the spacecraft soon after its close encounter with Wild 2 and returned to Earth, where it parachuted to the surface on January 15, 2006. Scientists have since been examining the contents of the capsule for clues about the early solar system.

All forms of life on Earth rely on proteins, which drive chemical reactions in their cells and form many of the structural elements around which organisms are built. This huge variety of proteins are all made up of chains of 20 amino acids.

The origin of amino acids has long been debated among scientists, with some favouring the view that they emerged in the primordial soup of the planet’s youth, and others proposing that they formed in space and came here on comets and meteorites.

The discovery of glycine in the Stardust samples points towards an extraterrestrial origin for at least one of the 20 amino acids.

Dr Elsila’s team first identified traces of glycine last year, in particles removed both from the aerogel and aluminium foil around it. As glycine is also present on Earth, however, the scientists had to confirm that it originated from space. The team used isotopic analysis to examine the chemical composition of the glycine. Many elements occur in different isotopes, or versions, which have different masses.

“We discovered that the Stardust-returned glycine has an extraterrestrial carbon isotope signature, indicating that it originated on the comet,” Dr Elsisa said.

The Stardust probe will fly past the comet Tempel 1 in 2011.

I've not put up any LOLCATS for a while

Always good for a giggle :)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The sands of Mars

I've not been very good this month with posting stuff, so am going to post a bit more stuff towards the end of the month.

This fantastic photo looks like liquid running, but is in fact a satalite picture of sand dunes on Mars. Nice! :)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Avatar, Avatar, Avatar

Its all going to be about Avatar for the next few months! ;)

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Sir Martin-de-Walker, Palace Guard for his Majesty King John

Thought I would send you a quick email about a pretty damn cool day I spent on Monday as a Palace Guard for King John, holding back an angry crowd at the signing of the Magna Carta lol ;)

My flat mate is one of the 3rd AD's (assistant directors) on "Untitled Robin Hood Film", and asked me if I would like to be an extra on it for the last day of big crowd filming at Shepperton Studios in London. So off I go at 4am for a fitting as a Palace Guard (in my opinion the best of all the costumes). I had chain mail armour, a broad sword (both aluminium) and a pike.

It was a bloody long day and they didnt use us till the afternoon, so I had a bit of a wander and enjoyed watching a scene with Russell Crowe firing an arrow straight at the camera. There was a board above the camera he aimed for, and guys with perspex riot shields all shielding the camera crew in case Russell missed his mark! lol, but he didnt!

Then in the afternoon we were taken into the most impressive set I have ever been on. They had built a bloody castle (London Castle) out of plasterboard and it looked amazing. The inside is a bailey, with staircases and giant doors on either end. The scene was King John signing (or did he?! lol) of the Magna Carta, and there was about five hundred extras who had names like, London Life, Barons, Knights, Northern Knights, Archers, Ladies in Waiting, MiddleClass Londoners, Monks and Clerics, and many more people. Plus the Palace Guard.

In the scene the Palace Guard are in front of King John and his throne, keeping the unruly crowd in check. My friends job is to look after the crowd and when we were called, he pulled me out and placed me DEAD CENTRE in front of the throne, and directly in front of the camera! lol (an extras dream), then all the other guards were placed around me. Cue much jealous comments about how I had managed to get that position lol. Its all who you know, eh? :)

King John is not happy about signing the Carta, so the crowd get angry. On cue the Palace Guards and Arhcers all raise there weapons and point them at the crowd. I had to lower my pike and point it at the front row of the crowd, who in my case included an archbishop, some barons, and a cardinal (who gave me the sign of the cross everytime I did it, then whispered "Can I sharpen my pencil?" lol)

It was such good fun, and the costumes were frankly amazing. Its quite something to see a production that size in action. It was also great to see Ridley Scott walking around, and at one point walked up to me and smiled, and asked someone why there wasnt a flag on my pike, so quickly gold braiding was wrapped around all our pike tips!

The costume was so damn hot though, and my shoulders and calfs ache something bad today, but it was totally worth it. And they even pay well too! lol

Cant wait to do something like that again. I think Im going to join an extras agency down here and see if I can get some days work when Im not doing locations on films :)